Who Are YOU To Judge My Blackness?

Why is it when some white people refers to a black person as "practically white" they think it's a compliment?

It's not.

This phrase has been uttered to me several times by either well meaning white friends or in some instances white strangers that think they and I are in the middle of a bonding moment.

Once they see the look on my face, I'm confident that all thoughts of bonding are out of the window.

I honestly believe that mainstream white America have been taught, whether actively or through societal cues, to fear black people. Therefore if you're a black person who defies this negative image, some white people equate that with "being white."

And "being white" or "practically white" is a dog whistle for you're safe. You're one of the "good ones."

You're not like those scary, dangerous, violent black people that we see on tv.

Because in our modern American society, blackness equals bad.

Spare me the laments of crime statistics, gangsta rap and unruly flash mob teens. Those are indisputable facts.

What angers me is that all black people are swept up in those negative images. So much so, that when some well meaning white person actually gets to know you and discover that you aren't some caricature, the mantle of whiteness is bestowed upon you like an honorary knighthood.

Well I've got news for you----I know I'm black. Do not call me "practically white."

Not only do I know I'm black but I'm quite proud of that fact.

Just because I enjoy activities that you may not see great numbers of black people participate in doesn't make me white.

Just because I don't "sound black" to you doesn't make me white.

Just because you may not be scared of me doesn't make me white.

Moreover, I'm offended that someone who oft times has the thinnest of knowledge of black history and black culture; derives their information on black people through the news and rap videos; who has few if any meaningful relationships with a black person, has the nerve to judge my blackness.

That goes double for you knuckleheads that are black and think that blackness is defined by some ridiculous set of "no snitching" codes and finding yet another way to reaffirm these worn out stereotypes.

Holding down a corner does not make you black.

Terrorizing your neighborhood does not make you black.

Having your pants hanging off your ass does not make you black and you look absolutely stupid to boot.

You can't judge my blackness either.

The same thugs and thugettes who try to keep it real on the streets, more than likely have no flipping idea who Carter G. Woodson is or know the first verse to Lift Every Voice and Sing.

But I'm sure they have the app downloaded on their smart phone for World Star Hip Hop.

I accept that as black people in this country we share certain commonalities and cultural experiences, but that alone cannot and is not the sole arbiter of blackness.

While Chris Rock makes a satirical send up of the President, I'm fairly certain it's simply to draw a parallel to what unites 50 year old, married rich guys.

In my opinion, to be black in this country is to be scrutinized and judged based on the actions of millions of other people. To be black is to be denied an individual identity.

I reject that notion just like I reject all of this foolishness.

So to clarity I'll simply repeat what's on my Twitter mantra: South sider by choice. Not easily defined. I like many different things and people.

That's how I keep it 100.

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    There are millions of white people living in this country. Your statements below show your complete ignorance. You demand that white America not lump all black people together, yet you have no issue with lumping all white people together.

    "I honestly believe that mainstream white America have been taught, whether actively or through societal cues, to fear black people."

    " In my opinion, to be black in this country is to be scrutinized and judged based on the actions of millions of other people. To be black is to be denied an individual identity."

    As someone who is relatively new to this country and has interacted with both white and black people, I have found that black people are way more monolithic when it comes to race, and more apt to stereotype than the the whites. Believe it or not, most white people don't have the time to obsess over black people and if you think they do, you're giving yourself way too much credit.

  • In reply to Deeprak Gupta:

    Mr. Gupta,
    Nothing about race in this country surprises me anymore. Since you're relatively new to this country, I have a feeling you may get a few of your own before it's all said and done. Nonetheless, thanks for commenting.

  • In reply to Deeprak Gupta:

    Mr. Gupta,

    Unfortunately your perspective may not be lfrom living in a country where your people were once slaves, and legally only 3\5 of a person. The "monolithic" you sense is a self-protection reaction from over 400 years of horrible treatment at the hands of whites in America. Did you happen to see the recent study which revealed over 50% of whites have negative views of blacks and hispanics? And that the figures have gotten worse since Obam became President. Half of the people in this country are considering voting for a man whose religion stated blacks could not be members of their priesthood until they "turned" white from black as a method of redemptive cleansing going back to the 1st murder of Abel by Cain?(this was Morman law until1978!). You have absolutely no experience, based on your comments, being an oppressed minority in the country where you are a citizen. You really have no clue do you?

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    the sad thing, I've gotten equally hurtful comments from Black people saying I wasn't "black enough". Can't please anyone..

  • In reply to Fredrick Royster:

    @Fredrick, I feel u bro. I had a guy I work with tell me I think i'm too good because I sound "White". He's black and clearly a racist. The funny part about this whole issue is that it's not the "Whites" who are judging me, it's the "Blacks"! I'm black and proud of it! All of a sudden I'm fake because I don't talk like I've never owned an english book. Or because rap isn't my only choice of music, i'm not black! Get real people!

  • Mr. Royster,
    I feel you and completely understand. Hence my mention of those of us who are black who feel the need to pass along their particular brand of faux blackness---or at least what has come to pass as modern blackness.

    I try to stay true to what I was taught as a child, to my moral code & pretty much everything else falls into place. I learned that I won't let a disproportionally small segment of dopes stop me from interacting with, engaging and befriending other black people.

    You shouldn't either. Keep it 100.

  • Great article. I grew up in a very small private school that had all of 3 black people in our whole class. People always described them as practically white. Even though I doubt I realized it at the time, it was a horrible thing to say. People thought that because these 3 grew up surrounded almost entirely by white people, that they were somehow white themselves. As if skin color rubs off or something. Now that I'm an adult I understand how insulting a statement like this is. I hope this isn't the wrong thing to say, but the ironic thing is when you are one of 3 black people in a sea of white people, you probably feel very black and not white in the least bit. I wish I could go back twenty years and stand up for them.

  • In reply to Karen Alpert:

    I also went to a grade school where I was one of a hand full of black children in the 70's. At that age, all you want to do is fit in so I understand how challenging it is to do so through the prism of race. Yes, there were some not so pleasant memories but I am still FB friends with several people who have known me for a vast majority of my life.

    I'd wager that if you ran into those same black kids from your school tomorrow, they probably already knew that you were steadfastly in their corner.

  • I was raised to fear black people. My mother was afraid of black people. There was no "Black History Month" when I was a child, so I never learned of the positive contributions made by african americans. I had no black friends, so the only black people I saw were on the news. And the news has never been good at showing good news. I went to a mixed high school, but very few of the black students showed me any respect and usually acted like they wanted to thump me. I say all of this to demonstrate the notion stated above that "we are taught to fear black people".

    Even so, for reasons I will not get into here, I am conscious of my upbringing and have worked hard to fix it.

    6 months ago, I started working with someone who, for unstated reasons, believes that many of the ills of this country are caused by "white men". I had never before been lumped into a class of "undesirable" people. It really bugged me. Still does. The people she describes are so unlike me...why does she lump me in with them? I'm not trying to say that I understand. I am saying simply that I have been judged by some poor examples of my race and gender, and it bugs the snot out of me.

    Anyway, the last time I used the phrase "practically white" was probably 25 years ago. Even so, sorry 'bout that. Won't happen again.

  • In reply to RickB:

    Mr. B.,
    I've always held the belief that we're ALL racists, we just have to work past our programming. I applaud your efforts and encourage you to keep on that road of understanding. While what you're experiencing is inexcusable, rude & inappropriate for a work setting (Hello---HR?); imagine having to live with that in one way or another practically EVERYDAY of your life.

    I know, you don't have to say it---people have it tough all over. Black Americans do not have the corner on misery, nonetheless if what your co-worker does "bugs the snot" out of you can you imagine what a life time of hearing that crap does to you? Imagine having a large part of your identity discarded for "practically white?"

  • In reply to Woodlawn Wonder:

    I read this post a few minutes after you first published it and didn't really have anything to add until now.

    I might agree we're all "-ists" in some fashion, but I think it is rooted more in classism and elitism than shade of skin. Do I silently mock people without manners who don't read the news? Yes. And I think we can all agree those types have various genetics.

    I just completely disagree that everyone is racist.

  • I'm of the mindset that there is no way that any of us CAN'T be racist as our culture is so racist. The knife cuts both ways---no one lives in a bubble.

    We'll just agree to disagree.

  • Mr. Gupta,
    Unfortunately, whether you choose to accept it or not, you are judged and stereotyped in the same way. Please do not continue to fool yourself in this way, as you will have some very difficult lessons to learn in this country. I dont think the writer is saying that whites somehow obsess over black people (in fact I'm not certain how you arrived at that observation). I believe it stems from the fact that many whites, hispanics, asians, even other blacks, etc, define intelligence as synonymous with being white. As a black american, it is very difficult to be told that who you are is inherently inept or violent. Mr. Gupta, living in the US I promise that YOU will often experince similar stereotypes of being inherently violent, rude, smelly, etc. Oh and where you actually come from is irrelevant (notice that I didnt ask). Your name is enough for many people. Now I ask you, are those people obsessing over you??? Stay in the states a little while longer and let us all know how much your opinion changes.

  • In reply to Victoria78:

    (Victoria drops mic)

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    There has never been as much talk about race since Obama got into office. If you call someone black,rather than African American people get offended, and vice versa. I don't want to offend anyone, and I don' t want to be called a cracker either. I have heard from the ladies that I work with ( both, black and Hispanic ) describing a black person, as light skinned, and dark skined.

  • In reply to Barbara Shanley:

    Actually, Ms. Shanley our country's racial dialogue is almost as old as the United States itself. From the 3/5 compromise to the slave states in the Constitution, to the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision in 1896 and Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. And let's not talk about the Civil War or the civil rights movement because that's a little too obvious.

    I hear you Ms. Shanley, race is a minefield that all of us have to tip toe around. Trust me, I've made my cultural missteps too and I'll be posting about it at some point. No one wants to be "that rude inappropriate person." While that isn't the motivation that has me relate my personal stories, I'm glad that it may impart a point of view that you may not have considered. As for your co-workers, I will advise you like I did Mr. B. above---methinks you need to bring HR in for a talk about appropriate conduct in the workplace.

  • Hi Woodlawn Wonder, I'm a first time reader and enjoyed your blog "Who Are YOU To Judge My Blackness?" While I've never been told I was practically white there have been occasions when white people have said I'm different than most Blacks in some particular way. I didn't take it personal, don't really pay much attention to things whites say regarding Black people because it usually makes no sense. Not their fault though, we do live in the most segregated city in the country. Anyway, keep up the good work.

    Terry,
    Park Manor

  • In reply to Terry:

    Well Terry we all have our thresholds, I had just reached mine. Hopefully this little post may give some people insight into another point of view they hadn't considered.

    I'm not trying to get you all uppity like me but it doesn't even grind your gears when someone implies that you're the exception to black people and not the rule? That your "honorary whiteness" gives you a validity that you never had before? That doesn't piss you off just a little?

  • In reply to Woodlawn Wonder:

    lol, no it doesn't grind my gears. I don't let things I have no control over bother me. I may try to exert influence when and where I can but I don't force the issue. Besides Black folks are the most diverse group of people on earth and Black Chicagoan present a perfect example of that. We come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, political persuasions, experiences, histories and points of view. Personally I enjoy being Black, thank God for it and celebrate it everyday.

    I guess you have to take into account that your blog is published by a white media outlet and a few white people might read it so you feel obligated to "give some people insight into another point of view they hadn't considered." I don't carry that burden and if an "honorary whiteness" were bestowed on me it would be meaningless, neutral, for my sanity's sake my mind lives in a Black world.

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    Another ignorant, uppity negro who hates whitey. Nothing new here folks, move on.

  • In reply to Deke Rivers:

    Well at least I'm not "practically white."

    Yours in uppity-ness.

    WW

  • In reply to Deke Rivers:

    Wow, that's embarrassing for you. You do realize if being a "whitey" is your big claim to superiority you have nothing else going on, right?

  • fb_avatar

    Logic is foreign to you.

  • In reply to Deke Rivers:

    Philosophy major here. Unfortunately, logic is very familiar to me as were logic notes, logic lectures and logic professors.

  • In reply to Deke Rivers:

    If you REALLY read her article and assimilate her information I do believe you hit that nail right on the head! I also get the feeling she is a very bitter individual and not a happy one at that! Pretty defensive, too, wouldn't you say? Thin skinned? Sensitive and looking for something to hold against some one else? Get even? Actually hates whites because she isn't one? Most of them do, you know!

  • Deke,

    Thats so cute! But really, get off the internet like a good little girl and go play or set something on fire or whatever you kids do. :)

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    In reply to Victoria78:

    Victoria is anecdotal proof that meth takes its toll on one.

  • Ms. Victoria,
    No need to insult our gender. As Deke said, "nothing new here." To quote Jay-Z, "brush your shoulders off."

    (Drops mic)

  • Really, Deke Rivers? Really? Are you putting us on? Did you just really say "uppity negro"?

    Your larger error was misidentifying the Woodlawn Wonder as ignorant. Your comment shows your own ignorance, because the author of this blog is pretty damn smart. I must say I am embarrassed for you. I don't have a snappy comeback for you, just a request to think about possibly growing up and joining the human community.

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    In reply to Julie:

    Thanks for the comment Julie, aka the lesbian lover of a certain uppity negro blogger.

  • In reply to Julie:

    Julie,
    Does your husband know? How are we gonna break the news to my boyfriend? Remind me to enable Facebook commenting immediately!

  • Well Zora Neale Hurston certainly classified people by skin shade with her color scale :
    "high yaller, yaller, high brown, vaseline brown, seal brown, low brown, dark brown"

  • In reply to jkatze:

    I'm a little fuzzy on your point?

  • Does not Ms. Hurston have a right to her opinion and language?

  • In reply to jkatze:

    Which has what to do with my post? Help me out here?

  • Well, I read this article with great care. My initial reaction was one of dislike for this person, an intense dislike. She might be black, and she might wonder how all blacks can be 'lumped' together and thought of as being of the same ilk. It so happens we can't tell the good one from the bad ones since there are so many bad ones! I get the distinct impression she thinks she is too good to be judged as 'almost white'. It has been my experience that most blacks don't have much that a white person would envy, in personality, responsibility, way of life, priorities or any other behavior patterns or what they contribute to society, much less their own neighborhood. I;'ve wondered what it would be like to be black and I am certain I would be ashamed and embarrassed that the members of my race act and behave the way they do. I personally think that most blacks would LOVE to be white! You even have problems with your own skin color, ie if someone is darker skinned than someone else - a light skin negro is not accepted by negros with a dark skin color. There is racism within their own ranks! If you didn't want to be white then why wear wigs with hair like a white person all of the time instead of your own hair? (thats just one thing you do). I think this person hates white people and has taken this posture to articulate it but in a subtle way thinking no one will see what she REALLY means by this blog. Like Opra, she acts 'white' during her program but she becomes 'black' when back amongst her own folks. Is that a Camileon or a phony? Is this gal real or just a phony, too!

  • Tag,
    Sounds like you have a great deal of intense dislike for a great many things, black people just happen to be one of them. You're entitled to your misinformed opinion, but since we haven't "contributed to society" I'll be personally filing a cease & desist order for all open heart surgeries & blood banks---two of the many ground breaking innovations by black Americans.

    And I still want my 40 acres and a mule.

    Forever a phony "Camileon,"

    WW

  • Here's the thing: personal qualities are not race-specific. Even cultural attributes are not race-specific. The more open-minded a person is, the more they observe life rather than looking for life to meet their preconceptions, the more this becomes apparent. Speaking eloquently is not a "white" quality. Some of best orators of our lifetime, such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela and our President, are African American. Liking rap music and hip hop culture are not "black" qualities. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps said when he's wearing his headphones before a meet, he's listening to Little Wayne. And just look at the audience at a major rap concert, it will be predominantly white. Certain qualities associated with inner-city youth are the same for youth of any ethnicity in those circumstances. I remember how surprised I was at a cocktail party once when my husband's boss, a middle aged white manager at a Fortune 100 company, hit the dance floor to the song "Electric Slide." To my surprise, he is a great dancer and a big fan of old school music. People are unique and surprising and not easily pigeon holed. To grow as individuals, we must make choices with no regard for society's expectations of us. We must also make an effort to accept our friends and colleagues as they are. But first we have to see them as they are which requires us to dispel the fog of stereotypical thinking and replace it with the clarity of open minded observation.

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    Well said as someone who has been called acting white by blacks and acting too black by whites I understand. When you do things that mostly whites do then you get the initial cold shoulder then the acceptance of hey you must want to be white. I just want to try new things and experience all that life has to offer and to my brothers and sisters who are so close minded in thinking in this day and age Blacks can't be more than just an around the way legend your wrong its a big world out there fammo and that deluxe apartment in the sky is for whoever puts in hard work. In conclusion race in America can be summarized in this phrase the more things change the more they stay the same...Great Blog..I'll holla oops I mean good-bye Woodlawn Wonder...

  • In reply to Maurice Edwards:

    @Maurice Edwards drops mic!

  • I can understand you wanting to tell a tale of whites stereotyping blacks but i just dont believe you were told you are almost white by a white person. I think you said it even happened twice are you talking recently by adults? Possibly happen to a black guy on an all white construction crew but to a black woman I dont buy it. What kind of setting did it happen in? What was the context? This could not occur in a work place with out you going to HR Was it at a party? Sounds like they were "friends" so have them tell us what they were thinking.

  • In reply to kingpin:

    Kingpin,
    If this foolishness didn't happen to me, I wouldn't have believed it either. I can't make this stuff up.

  • I get what you are saying but I don't know why you would feel the need to write about it. Isn't it a drop in the bucket compared to what other African-Americans say? And I agree with the poster who wondered who these whites are...because most of us are pretty well versed in pc. Maybe you feel the need to stress how black you are because you are lighter skinned? Anyway, too bad you passed up a few chances at discussion. Nothing kills conversation faster than a dirty look.

  • In reply to suburbina36:

    Suburbina,
    I write about many topics, this is only one of them. Clearly not everyone is well versed in pc. Explaining this stuff is tiring, you'll get a blog post but I'm not going through BOTH good manners 101 and sensitivity training. I'm done with that.

  • Always remember something Chris Rock says when he has a largely white audience:
    "There's not a single one of you who'd trade places with me. And I'm rich!"

  • In reply to Mark McDermott:

    Mark, you give me hope.

  • Thanks for such a great post!!! It is unfortunate to see the level of ignorance that permeates our society. I have been to several questions for service and educational purpose and not one time did I sterotype or denote derogatory statements to any individual. It is an unfortunate and shameful that a post of this nature is even needed in 2012. I am still waiting for people to stop referring to Africa as if it is one country!!!!!

  • @Deeprak Gupta:

    Obviously this is your first time living in a foreign country, looking at the statements you have made. I grew up in India and the UK and have been living in America for the past few years. No matter how cosmopolite I am, majority of the people always stereotype me to my great irritation. Now, I have come to a stage where I ignore people's ignorance and have moved on. So the writer is very accurate of their experiences in the article. So don't give yourself too much credit by making a blanket statement which is of no value to anyone. You just made a fool of yourself! And I say this as your fellow countryman Mr.Gupta.

  • In reply to IndianJohn:

    Tell it, Mr. John. Tell it.

  • Practically white? does that apply to Obama? come on you have to know by now that racism is passe and has been so for quite some time arrogance if you'll pardon the expression is the new black a generation of non-apolegetic whites who as they would say "werent there" when the madness went down but they reaped the benifits of their brethren hate and violence they cant't see the forest for the trees and when they smell the smoke (and they will) their roots will be too deeply entrenched for them to up and run so they'll just order another latte and hope they have enough government funding to come up with a plan to placate us .........I mean that's how it's usually done.....isn't it?

  • I must say... Hard to comment or add anything to what's already been said, but here's my two cents:

    Racism is alive and well in the U.S., but I think it's more of a generational issue than a White/Black/Hispanic/Asian cultural disposition. Yes, there are still many young ignorant individuals out there (case in point: tweets throughout the Obama re-election campaign), but more and more the power of transparency online means that we are self-policing and educating each other beyond our own neighborhoods and surroundings. You now see many more individuals that are dropping the ethnic classifications set by previous generations and becoming their own individuals. Just look at some of the (good) new cross-genre musicians that are spreading the right messages (I'm not talking about the ridiculous pop/club rap/superficial stuff).

    Yes, it may not be the majority at the moment, but let's at least be happy that it's a movement which will only grow larger as the younger generation matures. I understand that the hash reality needs to be stated, but let's also try to mix that in with some positivity.

    Thanks,

    -Jon

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    I don't understand why you are bringing up the issue of slavery and the 3/5 rule – those laws are extremely outdated, and our country is a very different place than it was in 1800. Bringing up a 200 year old law that is no longer in use makes your argument hold less ground.

    When people are raised in all-white suburbs and the only experience of people that are different than them are from TV – which tends to stereotype and over-exaggerate – then it should not come as a surprise that those people tend to be afraid of those groups of people. Especially when they are told to avoid certain neighborhoods with a predominately non-white population. Once those people move into the city and become exposed to people of a different race/religion/culture/etc, they realize that not every dark-skinned person on the street wants to steal your wallet or sell you drugs, and that those neighborhoods they were told to avoid aren't really so dangerous after all.

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